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Marshall (7-3) at FIU (1-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 23, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FIU Stadium (20,000) -- Miami, Florida. Television: FCS. Home Record: MU 5-0, FIU 0-5. Away Record: MU 2-3, FIU 1-4. Neutral Record: MU 0-0, FIU 0-0. Conference Record: MU 5-1, FIU 1-5. Series Record: Marshall leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The FIU Panthers have one last shot to pick up a victory in their home stadium as the Marshall Thundering Herd visit Miami for a Conference USA tilt on Saturday.
Marshall was tested last Thursday as it allowed Tulsa to overcome a 31-14 halftime deficit and take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Herd came up with big plays down the stretch to earn a 45-34 victory over the Golden Hurricane at H.A. Chapman Stadium. The Thundering Herd's first win in history over Tulsa improved it to 7-3 overall and more importantly set up a battle for the East Division title at Joan C. Edwards Stadium next week. Coach Doc Holliday's squad is now 2-3 in away games and on a three-game winning streak as it heads to FIU Stadium.
FIU's first season under coach Ron Turner has not been a smooth ride as it enters its second to last game with a 1-9 record after being defeated, 33-10, at Texas-El Paso last week. The loss marked the fifth in a row for FIU, which earned its only decision by a single-point over Southern Miss, the owner of the longest active losing streak in the FBS. The Panthers will visit Boca Raton to play Florida Atlantic on Nov. 29 for their regular season finale.
This will be only the second matchup in history between Marshall and FIU. With a freshman Rakeem Cato starting under center, the Thundering Herd took down the Panthers for a 20-10 decision in the 2011 Beef'O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg.
Now a junior, Cato has developed into one of the C-USA's best leaders. Marshall is the 11th most productive team in the FBS in terms of total yards per game (506.2) and its average of 42.8 points per game is the eighth best nationally. The third-year starter had an excellent showing last week versus Tulsa as he connected on 33-of-58 passes for 456 yards with two of his five touchdowns going to Tommy Shuler. In the process, Cato extended his school record streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 28.
Devon Smith made seven receptions for 114 yards and a score while Shuler reeled in nine catches for 105 yards versus Tulsa. Gator Hoskins, who entered the contest leading tight ends nationally in touchdown receptions, caught two more passes in the end zone to bring his season total to a C-USA best nine. Shuler is second to Hoskins with eight TDs and also ranks second on the conference leaderboard in both catches (74) and receiving yards (798).
The Herd have shown tremendous balance this season as they are also racking up 210.2 yards per game on the ground. Senior tailback Essray Taliaferro is the featured back with 152 carries, 796 yards and nine TDs. The sophomore tandem of Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms have scored six TDs apiece and have helped take the burden off of the senior starter as well with 585 and 448 yards, respectively.
Marshall's defense has held the opposition to over 20 points less per game than the offense is producing. The Herd's defense held its ground last week after the team turned the ball over a total of five times. Tulsa was held to only 345 total yards and 19 first downs. The team has registered 21 takeaways and 74 TFL. Jermaine Holmes has been the anchor with 68 total tackles, 7.5 TFL and an interception.
Although Turner was an offensive coordinator at the highest level for the Chicago Bears for seven years, FIU's attack is yielding only 10.1 points and 223.4 total yards per game to rank 122ng out of 123 FBS programs. The lack of production was on display last week versus the Miners, who had been lit up for 41 points or more in their previous three outings.
UTEP held a 407-200 edge in total yards, and limited FIU to only 11 first downs. Lamarq Caldwell rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries and also threw a touchdown pass to T.J. Lowder. E.J. Hilliard threw for 53 yards on 5-of-14 passing, and Jake Medlock also got a turn under center, finishing with just 36 yards on 3-of-7 passing.
The Panthers have scored only five rushing TDs to their oppositions' 24 and average 2.1 yards per carry. Medlock and Hilliard have split time under center and combined for nine interceptions against six TDs.
FIU's defense has been weak defensively, allowing 416.7 total yards and 37.5 points per game. Isame Faciane stood out on the defensive side of the ball against UTEP with a team-best 12 tackles, including two stops for loss. Senior linebacker Markeith Russell has done far more than his fair share as his 82 total tackles on the season is far above Justin Halley, who ranks second on the team with 50 stops.
Although Marshall will have a chance to punch its ticket to the C-USA Championship for the first time in history regardless what happens in this one, it will be looking to build momentum offensively after last week's performance that was riddled with mistakes. The Panthers have very little to play for at this point and they have not shown any signs of life in quite some time.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 49, FIU 3
11/20 10:40:48 ET